Thursday, October 1, 2009
What's in Bloom: Swamp Sunflower
The Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) are out in full glory today. The sun came up cold, but still no frost. And as the morning wore on, the light picked up each bright yellow petal like stained glass.
In the past I tried incorporating this flower into a hedgerow I've formed in my yard. I had this idea that it would look great between the highbush cranberries and the arrowwood shrubs. But it seemed crowded and sad there.
So, last fall after it had finished blooming, I moved it over to be next to two another tall native perennials, the Joe Pye Weed and the Ironweed. These three plants seem really happy together. They all soak up the excessive wash out that occurs under the one rain spout in my back yard that lacks a rain barrel. And they all can get big and tall and lean over in old which way with complete abandon. No shrubby branches to bump into.
In the photo you can see, for example, the that the swamp sunflower is leaning over my pineapple sage. This is no accident. In fact, this is one piece of garden choreography that I am very proud to say I planned. The sage waits all season to bloom. Then, just when October hits, those red flowers burst forth like fireworks. At that exact same time, the swamp sunflowers are ready to blossom, too. Both are also wonderful for wildlife. Bees and birds love the sunflowers and the migrating hummingbirds make the most of those tubular red sage blossoms.
People complain a lot about how the garden can be boring in fall. I think this is one of the key reasons to plant native stuff. If you do you discover that fall is one of the best seasons of all to be outside. You can find interesting seed heads, ripening berries, fantastic leaf patterns and fall colors, and of course, late blooming flowers. Plus, all of the above are used by the wildlife that is preparing for the long cold season ahead, making the fall garden crazy, vibrant and colorful. A fall garden full of native plants is not ever sad or forlorn.